Miami’s Chase Perez-Blanco, the No.6 seed, captured his first USTA Florida Bobby Curtis Junior State Championship in singles, defeating No.9 seeded Oliver Landert of Naples 6-4, 7-5 in the Boys’ 18s finals.
The 65th version of the state championships was at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach, Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs and the Ormond Beach Tennis Center.
Perez-Blanco took the court in warrior style with face paint and a bandanna, but “it just got uncomfortable, and I thought I have to get this stuff off,” he chuckled.
The two players traded breaks in the first set until Perez-Blanco broke again at 4-4 and served out the set. In the second set, the players again traded breaks with Perez-Blanco finding himself down 3-5 before running off four consecutive games to clinch the championship.
“I knew he was going to come out aggressive, so I wanted to be aggressive, and it’s so hot out here so you don’t want to be out here for three hours running side to side,” Perez-Blanco said.
It was the first singles title in any age group at the Florida championships for Perez-Blanco, who has collected three Florida state doubles championship titles in varying age groups.
“It’s definitely up there at the top of the list [of titles]. It’s the state title. It’s the best kids in the state and to come out on top is a great feeling,” said the 17-year-old who trains at the Royal Palm Tennis Club in Miami.
He is hoping to make a college decision by the end of the summer.
16s: No.2 seeded Alfredo Perez of Coral Gables successfully defended his title in the Boys’ 16 division, upsetting top seeded Chase Colton of Davie 6-4, 6-4 in the finals.
Perez trailed 4-1 in the first set before running off seven straight games to go up a break in the second.
“He was playing really good in the first set, and I was kind of sleepy, and then I started moving a lot better and making a lot of balls in the court,” Perez said. “He started playing really well again in the second set, but I took my time and at the end of the set broke him at 5-4 and won.”
The 16-year-old Perez joined Gordon Watson (2010-09), Larry Gottfried (1975-74), Ben McKown (1973-72) and Mac Claflin (1966-65) as back-to-back winners in the 16s division in the history of the event dating to 1952.
“The first two or three matches I was kind of nervous, [being the] defending champion. I didn’t play my best tennis but won matches,” said Perez, who trains at the USTA Training Center-Headquarters in Boca Raton but also attributes his development to former coach Robert Gomez at the Biltmore Tennis Center in Coral Gables.
• Historically the highest-quality USTA Section tournament in the country, the USTA Florida Section junior championships launched the careers of future No.1s Chris Evert, Jennifer Capriati, Jim Courier and Andy Roddick among other ATP and WTA tour players over the years.
USTA Florida is launching a new series of recreational team tennis events, under the mantra “Bring Your Own Team.” Dubbed Team Tennis Challenges, these two- and three-day tournaments are a more fun, open recreational format for teams to play.
Teams from anywhere in Florida can register for the inaugural State Team Tennis Challenge July 26-28 at the Florida Tennis Center. Four regional Team Tennis Challenges will follow in the fall across the state. USTA members and non-members can participate, with USTA members receiving a $10 discount on registration.